Abstract

Many studies include some form of blocking in the study design. Block effects are rarely of intrinsic interest; instead they are included in a model so that that model reflects the study design. I consider the question of how these block effects should be modeled: as fixed effects or as random effects. I discuss the consequences of the choice, including the recovery of inter-block information when available, give a simple example to illustrate the connection between recovery of inter-block information and pooling two estimators of a treatment effect, and give an example where fitting a model with random block effects can lead to the wrong answer. I suggest that block effects should be modeled as fixed effects unless there are compelling reasons to do otherwise.

Keywords

blocking, experimental design, mixed models

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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COinS
 
May 1st, 4:00 AM

SHOULD BLOCKS BE FIXED OR RANDOM?

Many studies include some form of blocking in the study design. Block effects are rarely of intrinsic interest; instead they are included in a model so that that model reflects the study design. I consider the question of how these block effects should be modeled: as fixed effects or as random effects. I discuss the consequences of the choice, including the recovery of inter-block information when available, give a simple example to illustrate the connection between recovery of inter-block information and pooling two estimators of a treatment effect, and give an example where fitting a model with random block effects can lead to the wrong answer. I suggest that block effects should be modeled as fixed effects unless there are compelling reasons to do otherwise.